Dem senators seize on Senate press crackdown

Dem senators seize on Senate press crackdown

Democratic senators are pushing back against the news that reporters will be barred from filming or recording audio of interviews in the Senate hallways without special permission, with many lawmakers noting that the restrictions come as the Senate considers high-profile courses of action on Russian election interference and an ObamaCare repeal bill.

Many Democratic senators tweeted about the crackdown on press access after reports of the new restrictions surfaced Tuesday.

Television reporters will now need permission from senators, the Senate Rules Committee, the Senate sergeant-at-arms or the Senate Radio and TV Gallery, depending on location, before conducting an on-camera interview with a senator anywhere in the Capitol or in the Senate office buildings, according to a Senate official familiar with the matter. 

A Senate Democratic aide said the decision to substantially curtail the access of television reporters was made unilaterally by Senate Rules Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).

The new rules come as Senate Republicans rush to finish an ObamaCare repeal bill, which Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerAmerica isn't ready to let Sessions off his leash Schumer celebrates New York Giants firing head coach: ‘About time’ GOP should reject the left's pessimism and the deficit trigger MORE (D-N.Y.) brought up in a tweet criticizing the rules. 

Some Democratic senators said lawmakers shouldn't need to avoid the press, emphasizing the importance of free press.

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharFranken resignation could upend Minnesota races Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Trump-free Kennedy Center Honors avoids politics MORE (D-Minn.) called for reporting at the Capitol to be allowed to "proceed as usual."

Other Democratic senators referenced the GOP's healthcare proposal, saying the GOP is trying to "hide" from its plan.

The new restrictions break years of precedent, which previously set that “videotaping and audio recording are permitted in the public areas of the House and Senate office buildings,” according to the Radio and TV Gallery website.

The new rules also provoked pushback from some GOP senators, with Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.) calling them a "bad idea."